the other main character is this kiddo: Eli, a 10yo boy from 1870s London, "lifted" from the past and stuck in Nikhil's care for training on how to be a modern person. Eli is a rambunctious little brat who's confused but he's trying really hard ok??? he's never seen a microwave, self-driving cars, or women in trousers. he LOVES: food, adventure stories, being doted on, befriending strange folk. he HATES: eating insects, being condescended to he's UNSURE ABOUT: wearing short sleeves in public

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there are more characters (ohhh yes) but i'll talk about them later.

so, mandarin is the lingua franca in datavend, both bc china (now also a corporate state) is the dominant world power, and bc datavend was itself founded by chinese expats. it's still a recognizably western society and everyone speaks english as the common tongue, but chinese is the language of formality.

eli learns only one phrase in chinese, and it's "sustainable development." he uses it all the time.

nikhil (tucking eli into bed): goodnight, kid.
eli: sustainable development.
nikhil: yep.......................... that's right

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